Long embarrassed by the tawdry condition of the Walk of Fame, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce has launched a new program to clean, repair and replace disfigured and cracked star-shaped memorials to movie, television and radio personalities.
The organization has begun marketing products such as T-shirts, pins, coffee mugs and jackets to raise $300,000 to finance the repairs along Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street.
Bill Welsh, president of the chamber, said that the fund drive was initiated because the problem has continued for more than a decade.
The walk is funded by an assessment district and receives about $40,000 annually, which barely covers the cost of hosing down the sidewalks. There is no money left to scrape the food, gum and muck off the terrazzo squares (a combination of marble chips and cement).
Volunteers occasionally clean the squares, but, as Welsh lamented, "the tendency is to over-clean their favorites--the Carpenters, Barry Manilow, Tyrone Power. . . . Stars without large fan clubs tend to be ignored."
Welsh also said that there is no money to replace cracked or disfigured squares. "We get calls all the time from people whose names are on the walk about repairing or replacing damaged stars," he said, 'but when we tell them the price ($1,400 each), there are not many takers."
In the past year, only two stars have been replaced: Singer Teresa Brewer's replacement was financed by her fan club, and radio personality Dick Whittinghill reached into his own pocket to replace his damaged star.
Edward N. Lewis, the chamber's vice president of marketing who devised the fund-raising program, said that many of the 1,819 individual plaques along the Walk of Fame are damaged.
"There is some vandalism, but most of the damage is caused by simple wear and tear," Lewis said. "The ones located in driveways are particularly vulnerable due to the constant assaults by the automobiles. There also is damage by vibrations caused by traffic on the street. We are in the process of cataloguing the damage."
Kathryn Shepard, another chamber official, said the most severly damaged plaques include those honoring Montgomery Clift, Ray Milland and Ray Rennahan, all motion picture personalities.
Bill Paternostro, vice president of Consolidated Terrazzo Inc., the firm in charge of construction on the Walk of Fame, said that replacing damaged plaques does not come cheap because of material and labor expenses.
"We have to make three trips to the site," he said, "to take out the old plaque, replace the new one and then to polish it. Terrazzo is the hardest material that can be used for them. Those materials, such as granite and marble, that are harder are not practical. Granite is too hard to sculpt and marble would be too expensive."
The Walk of Fame was created in 1960 by a $1-million assessment district. It included 2,300 charcoal terrazzo squares with coral terrazzo stars outlined in brass. A total of 1,558 personalities were honored at the opening of the walk, with one star a month entered since then.
"The only problem was that there was no money provided to do repair work," said Welsh, a television personality who has a star on the walk. "We hope to take care of that problem shortly."
Welsh said that a new sealant is being tested to determine whether it will make the cleaning of the plaques easier. The experiment is being conducted on his plaque.